4 steps to rev up your metabolism

You’re probably familiar with metabolism. It’s that stubborn thing that can either help your weight-loss efforts or hurt them. But can you do anything to speed up your metabolism?

First, what exactly is metabolism? Well, essentially, metabolism is your body’s process for taking the foods you eat and turning them into the energy your body needs to function properly.

What does that have to do with weight loss exactly? You likely know that weight loss occurs when your body burns more calories than you take in. Metabolism determines how your body burns calories, both while you’re resting and during activity.

So if someone says they have a “high” metabolism, they mean that their body burns more calories. On the other hand, someone with “slow” metabolism burns fewer calories, meaning they have to eat less to avoid weight gain.

Metabolism is largely genetic, and researchers disagree on whether you can change your body’s metabolism rate. But there do appear to be a few ways help your body burn calories more efficiently and burn more of them.

Read on for four steps you can take.

Metabolism kick-starter No.1: Eat enough.
This one might sound counterintuitive. After all, when you’re trying to lose weight, aren’t fewer calories the goal?

Not exactly. For your metabolism to work properly, your body requires a certain number of calories. If you eat fewer than that amount each day, your metabolism will actually slow down. And your body will start breaking down muscle to use as an energy source.

How much is enough, though? The amount of calories your body needs each day to function properly depends on multiple factors, including your age, gender and activity level.

If you’re following a lower-calorie diet and aren’t losing weight, are having difficulties with sleep, are feeling moody, are having tummy troubles, or are always feeling cold, your body may be telling you that you aren’t eating enough.

Fuel your body with the calories it needs, and then your metabolism can work more efficiently.

Metabolism kick-starter No.2: Eat strategically.
This tip has a couple different parts. The first is to change the way you’re eating throughout the day. Instead of eating three (or fewer) big meals, eat smaller meals or snacks at intervals during the day.

Doing so will keep you from feeling hungry and heading toward the vending machine. Every few hours — for example, at 7 a.m., 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. — eat an energizing combination of foods. Aim to include a carbohydrate, a lean protein and a small amount of healthy fat in each small meal or snack.

The second part of this tip is to include some metabolism-boosting foods in your diet. Most importantly, eat plenty of protein, which your body needs to maintain the lean muscle that’s beneficial for metabolism. One great source of protein? Salmon, which also contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids that can make your metabolism more efficient.

You can also add some life to your metabolism by drinking green tea, using olive oil, and adding spices like chili pepper to your foods.

Metabolism kick-starter No.3: Stay hydrated.
Do you know how important fluids are for your body? All of the body’s cells, tissues and organs require water to operate. Since we lose water throughout the day as we breathe, sweat and use the restroom, it’s important to replenish those fluids.

The temperatures are finally beginning to cool down for the year, but that doesn’t mean that staying hydrated isn’t important. You can become dehydrated at any time of the year.

Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. By the time you feel thirst, you can actually already be dehydrated. So drink water continuously throughout the day.

It’s especially important to make sure you drink plenty of water before, during and after any type of physical activity, whether exercise or job responsibilities.

And don’t think that you can only get water through what you drink. Many fruits and vegetables, including berries, peaches, tomatoes and cauliflower, contain high quantities of water. Eat up!

Metabolism kick-starter No.4: Build muscle.
You may think that hitting the treadmill or elliptical is the best way to promote weight loss. But actually, strength training is weight loss’ best friend.

Regularly including strength training in your exercise routine will help you build and maintain lean muscle mass. Doing so will strengthen your resting metabolism, enabling it to burn calories more efficiently, even while you’re resting.

Lifting weights or using weight machines is a common method of strength training, but you can also use your body weight or resistance bands to build strength.

Before starting any new diet or exercise routine, it’s important to talk with your doctor about what’s right for you. Need a doctor? Find one here.